We owe it to each other to tell stories - Neil Gaiman

Thursday, 12 November 2015

There have been great societies that did not use the wheel, but there have been no societies that did not tell stories. - Ursula K. LeGuin

Thursday, 5 November 2015

Australia - A.D. Hope

At the beginning of the year I did a Coursera short course on Australian Literature. For many years I have been intrigued by the Land Down Under. I had to share this poem, and thought it would be a good starting point for an exploration of Australian Literature here on Kahaani. So without further ado, here is the poem Australia by A.D. Hope.
A Nation of trees, drab green and desolate grey
In the field uniform of modern wars,
Darkens her hills, those endless, outstretched paws
Of Sphinx demolished or stone lion worn away.
They call her a young country, but they lie:
She is the last of lands, the emptiest,
A woman beyond her change of life, a breast
Still tender but within the womb is dry.

Without songs, architecture, history:
The emotions and superstitions of younger lands,
Her rivers of water drown among inland sands,
The river of her immense stupidity

Floods her monotonous tribes from Cairns to Perth.
In them at last the ultimate men arrive
Whose boast is not: "we live" but "we survive"
A type who will inhabit the dying earth.

And her five cities, like five teeming sores,
Each drains her: a vast parasite robber-state
Where second-hand Europeans pollute
Timidly on the edge of alien shores.

Yet there are some like me turn gladly home
From the lush jungle of modern thought, to find
The Arabian desert of the human mind,
Hoping, if still from the deserts the prophets come.

Such savage and scarlet as no green hills dare
Springs in that waste, some spirit which escapes
The learned doubt, the chatter of cultured apes
Which is called civilization over there.

A.D. Hope was born in New South Wales in 1907. He completed a Bachelor of Arts Degree at Sydney University - majoring in English and Philosophy. He worked as a psychologist for the New South Wales Department of Labour and lectured at the University of Melbourne. He became the first Professor of English at Canberra University College. He received his OBE in 1972. A poet and critic, he published 14 anthologies, an autobiography, several critiques as well as a play called Ladies from the Sea.You can read more about A.D. Hope and his works here

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

The 4-1-1 on BOOKBUB

BookBub has been around for quite a while, having been established in 2012, however it has only recently come to my attention with an advert on Facebook and with bookish friends mentioning it on Twitter. If you haven't heard about BookBub yet, you're probably wondering what it is, how it works and how it will compound your book hoarding problem.

BookBub is rather like a bookish version of Groupon. You sign up to receive a daily email with deals on books that are either hugely marked down or free. It is also ridiculously user friendly - with the signing up and usage only requiring your email address and preferred genres.

What things look like when you first go to BookBub
Once you have signed up for BookBub you can select what you would like to read by either selecting one of the titles they have recommended for you based on your preferences or by browsing the various categories of books available via BookBub. Presently the categories include Action & Adventure, Bestsellers, Chick Lit, Cooking, Fantasy, History and Thrillers.

Jeffrey Archer, Isabelle Allende, Dennis Lehane, Neil Gaiman, Agatha Christie and R.L. Stine are some of the more popular authors who are available for selection at the moment. There is also a really comprehensive selection of YA titles and their collection of cozy mysteries is not too shabby either. The bulk of the YA titles are free.

The really great thing about BookBub is that the books that are available are available on various platforms, namely Amazon, B&N, Apple, Google and Kobo which makes it so much easier to get the ebook on your device as it will be what you are already accustomed to using. If you are like me and have more books than you could possibly read during your lifetime, then BookBub will definitely add more to your already teetering TBR pile - but what's the harm in that?

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Dan Carter's written an autobiography!

I am incredibly excited. A few weeks ago I found out that the greatest rugby player in the world wrote an autobiography and today I found out that the greatest fly-half in rugby history - Dan Carter has written an autobiography which will be available on 14 November 2015.

Titled "The Autobiography of an All Blacks Legend" this will be a must for not only fans of Dan Carter and the All Blacks but of the game of rugby.

Dan Carter holds many records and was recently awarded with the title World Rugby Player of the Year. His autobiography is sure to offer some great insight into the life of a player who has dedicated everything to giving the best he can to his team - The All Blacks. His book will also reveal to us Dan's feelings about the tragic injury that cut short his time at the 2011 Rugby World Cup hosted by New Zealand.

I cannot wait to get a copy of this as well as Richie McCaw's The Real McCaw.

Monday, 2 November 2015

Getting over the Death of your External Hard drive

There are many occasions in life where loss results in grief and mourning. The loss of a family member. The loss of a friend. The loss of a pet. The theft of your cellphone or laptop or tablet. The death of your external hard drive.

In the age where we buy fewer and fewer physical objects and instead download or purchase downloads our storage devices have become rather dear to us. Since I got my first external hard drive - a trusty 150GB - in 2008 the storage capacity of external hard drives have become quite immense with 3 and even 4TB being quite standard these days. The larger the capacity of your external, the less stable it is; but oh the possibility that lies in all the things you can save! So much space in just one item. So much of an investment in that item, that when it fails - it is not the loss of the object that one grieves, but rather the things contained within it.

My sister and I have this idiosyncratic habit of naming objects - from watches to laptops to externals. I tend to be more nerdy with the names that I select with eponymous characters coming from Harry Potter, Greek Mythology and other literary sources. I once had a 1TB external hard drive that I decided to name after the Muppet 'Animal' as the external made this strange whooping sound like a hyena, not that Animal makes that sound - but it just made absolute sense to me. Animal sadly died after about 6 months, and with it died so many series. My entire collection of Fringe, The Vampire Diaries, Greys Anatomy, Private Practice, series I hadn't even got around to watching yet... I shall refrain from listing them all as I would hate for this post to be a long list of series. I won't even mention the movies. It was tough, it was emotional, I shed a few tears, but after some months I eventually got over the loss of all of my digital treasures.

I suppose I should be thankful that (touch wood, fingers crossed, rub the Buddha's belly) I have only lost two external hard drives so far in 7 years. My most recent loss occurred in February 2015. A 500GB external hard drive tragically named Gatsby - I really should have known better. It was a Sunday. I was re-watching American Horror Story Asylum when suddenly the episode didn't want to play anymore. I tried playing
something else when a message popped up saying I had to format the drive. Format the drive? There was no way that I was going to format this external hard drive that had 3 seasons of Suits, American Horror Story, Parks and Recreation and Adventure Time. I didn't want to lose 2 seasons of The Americans, The Newsroom, Girls and House of Cards. I was not going to willingly format a drive that had every single episode of My Family and David Attenborough's amazing series Life on it.

 So I pressed cancel. Decided that maybe I should restart my laptop and hoped that it would all be fixed after that... Boy was I wrong! I unplugged Gatsby and restarted my laptop hoping that this horrible formatting issue would be a thing of the past. I plugged my external back in, only to hear a sound that is ominous to anyone who has read or watched Peter Pan, well ominous if you are or like Captain Hook. My external started ticking. Poor Gatsby was also not reading, the light was on but no one was home. I was dumbstruck I could not believe this was happening. Gatsby was not even a year old yet. Why would it die? What cruel fate was this? You see, I was in the first stage of grief - denial. This could not and should not be happening so soon. Gatsby was still so young, 500GB should have been quite stable, the odds were surely in my favour? Alack-and-alas 'twas not - Gatsby like his namesake was dead.

The second stage of grief came rather quickly. I still had some hope that things could be salvaged. I googled "what to do when your external ticks" I read several articles, hoping that something could be done - but they all said the same thing; the writing was on the wall. There was nothing I could do to  fix it. I was angry, I was on the verge of being  livid - this should not have happened. Everything was gone. I had been caught between Scylla and Charybdis. Lose your data or lose your data and your hard drive. I lost both, this was not fair. I could not give up so easily, and went into stage three of the grieving process - bargaining. I visited a local shop to see if they could fix it, but the death knell had wrung err ticked.

Then came stage 4 - depression. I was utterly bereft for the loss of all those series, but mostly the loss of the entire series of My Family. I had not watched past season 6 yet, I had 5 more seasons to go. I was fixated on the episode "Reloaded" as it had clips from the first 49 episodes, so it was basically a greatest hits in the form of funny moments. At the end, it had a sequence to the music of Madness' Our House and it was wonderful. I could not listen to Our House without feeling terribly sad and rather close to tears.

I have only recently reached the fifth and final stage of grief for my external hard drive and its contents - acceptance. Gatsby has been replaced by an as yet unnamed external hard drive and some of the series that was lost has been restored through the generosity of my cousins as well as me embracing the physical and buying the DVDs. The loss of Gatsby was unfortunate, tragic even, but in the words of Patsy Stone "These things happen".

Sunday, 1 November 2015

ALL BLACKS are World Cup Champions Again!

After waging a wonderful campaign of excellent rugby, the stage was set for a phenomenal game in the 2015 Rugby World Cup match between New Zealand and Australia. Being an All Blacks fan for as long as I can remember, my hopes were high for a victory for the boys in black. As we have come to expect from them the All Blacks did not disappoint with 70 minutes of outstanding play. There were 10 minutes where it looked like it could go either way, but then the inimitable Dan Carter scored a magnificent drop goal and turned the game around back into clearly going the way of the All Blacks. I shall say nothing about what I deem to be the unfair sin-binning of Ben Smith.

The Game Changing Drop Goal
This was definitely the best game of RWC 2015 with the All Blacks all pushing themselves to the limits of their capabilities. Richie McCaw, Dan Carter, Aaron Smith, Ben Smith, Conrad Smith, Brodie Retallick, Ma'a Nonu, Nehe Milner-Skudder, Sam Whitelock, Owen Franks, Joe Moody, Kieron Read, Dan Coles, Julian Savea, Jerome Kaino, Ben Franks, Charlie Faumuina, Kevin Mealamu, Sonny-Bill Williams, Beauden Barrett, Victor Vito and Tawera Kerr-Barlow all gave it their absolute best.

Nehe Milner-Skudder's try
Dan Carter well and truly deserved to win Man of the Match, especially since it was his last game in the All Black jersey. So many truly great All Blacks are retiring - Kevin Mealamu, Ma'a Nonu, Jerome Kaino, Conrad Smith and quite possibly Richie McCaw. We can only salute them for their wonderful service in their individual 100+ games in the All Black jersey. Congratulations to the best team in the world! You truly deserve the record of being the first team to win 3 Rugby World Cups and 2 successive World Cups.

I look forward to seeing the blossoming talent of so many amazing All Blacks including Aaron Smith, Ben Smith, Beauden Barrett, Nehe Milner-Skudder, Julian Savea, Brodie Retallick, Tawera Kerr-Barlow and Sam Cane. I look forward to the next 4 years of amazing rugby and best of luck for Japan 2019!

Nonu races for his try

Celebrating a well deserved victory!

We are the Champions!
Richie lifts the Webb Ellis Cup for the second consecutive time.
Legends of the game - Richie McCaw and Dan Carter
A post victory haka for the fans.

Friday, 30 October 2015

The times they are a-changin'

Today is the dawn of a new era here on my blog. Out with the old and in with the new, because the times they are a-changin'. Bibliophilia was a blog dedicated strictly to books and bookish things, but as my interests have changed I was starting to feel a bit stifled and did less and less writing for the blog. I didn't want to give up blogging as I enjoy writing and having an expressive platform so I decided to take a page from Madonna's book and embraced a sort of reinvention. Thus Kahaani was born!

In the spirit of Kahaani, I shall give the story explaining the choice of the name Kahaani as direction and replacement for Bibliophilia. I received a copy of the Indian movie Kahaani from a former business associate and friend in 2013. It is a riveting mystery thriller which I highly recommend. I enjoyed the movie so much, because the meaning of Kahaani - which is story is central to the movie. I also loved the word Kahaani that I decided that if I got another cat, I would name him or her 'Kahaani'. 

Kahaani does a 'selfie'
Having said that, Kahaani is also the name of one of my cats. The most peculiar one of my cats, I think. I
found her on a Sunday in May 2014 in a rosebush in my garden. I responded to mewing that I thought was coming from my other cat, Sirius, but turned out instead to be this adorable Calico cat that just peered into my soul and stayed in my heart. She was tame, not yet feral but far away from home, quite hungry and had so many ticks on her. I fed her, removed the ticks, played with her and kept her close - waiting to see if she would stay. A week later she was still here so she went to the vet, got her shots, got spayed, dewormed and became a permanent fixture in our home. And that is her story. I shall elaborate on Kahaani's story as time goes by. I shall also write about Buster and Sirius who are also female companions.

However, I digress.

Kahaani will focus on stories, regardless of the medium - be they songs, movies, series, books, poems or pictures. Content will be more diverse - it may not always be about stories but it will be whatever is intriguing me at the moment.

I have already started with the cosmetic changes, adding all the links will take some time, so please bear with me. I welcome any ideas or suggestions or even questions.

 I hope that you will enjoy this new part of my blogging journey with me.

Thursday, 29 October 2015

Oh Dear Silvia - Dawn French

Who is in Coma Suite Number 5?

A matchless lover? A supreme egotist? A selfless martyr? A bad mother? A cherished sister? A selfish wife?

All of these. For Silvia Shute who has always done exactly what she wants. Until now, when her life suddenly, shockingly stops.

Her past holds a dark and terrible secret, and now that she is unconscious in a hospital bed, her constant stream of visitors are set to uncover the mystery of her broken life. And she must lie there, victim of the beloveds, the borings, the babblings and the plain bonkers.

Like it or not, the truth is about to pay Silvia a visit. Again, and again, and again…

Title: Oh Dear Silvia

Author: Dawn French

Publisher: Penguin Books

Pages: 342

Date of Publication: 2012

Other notable titles from author: A Tiny Bit Marvellous, Dear Fatty

Source: Purchased at the 2013 Exclusive Books Warehouse Sale in Cape Town

The Review

I did not read the book jacket before I bought Oh Dear Silvia. I simply grabbed it as it was a book by Dawn French, who is one half of the French-Saunders comedy writing duo. It was purely on the basis of the name Dawn French that I bought Oh Dear Silvia. I do wonder if I would have bought it had I actually read the back cover - possibly not; probably not, as I was expecting a rather more comedic book than what we are presented with. I am glad though that I didn’t read the book jacket and just took the book – as I would have missed out on a book that I ended up enjoying a lot and made me take pause for introspection.

Oh Dear Silvia is a book written from various perspectives, it is through the eyes and experiences of others we are able to piece the puzzle together of who Silvia is. This is an incredible examination of the various relationships one person has with others and how it is so difficult to understand why we sometimes do things. The lengths we will go to protect and look after our loved ones. It is easy to see Silvia as the villain of the story, until we see the pieces of the puzzle put together and gain understanding, it is just sad that Silvia is not able to speak for herself.

Marvelously told and incredibly heart breaking, Oh Dear Silvia is the kind of story that we all need to read as there is often more to a person’s story than meets the eye.

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Pan Macmillan Presents Hausfrau by Jill Alexander Essbaum

An extraordinary debut literary page-turner with echoes of Madame Bovary and Anna Karenina.

Haunting and elegant, Hausfrau is the exceptional debut novel from the prize-winning American poet, Jill Alexander Essbaum.

Anna was a good wife, mostly. . .

But adultery, too, has its own morality, and when Anna finds herself crossing a line, she will set off a terrible chain of events that ends in unspeakable tragedy. As her life crashes down around her, Anna must then discover where one must go when there is no going back....

Feeling adrift and unable to connect with her husband or his family; with the fellow expatriates who try to befriend her; or even, increasingly, her own thoughts and emotions, Anna attempts to assert her agency in the only way that makes sense to her: by engaging in short-lived but intense sexual affairs.
Anna Benz lives in comfort and affluence with her husband and three young children in Dietlikon, a picture-perfect suburb of Zurich. Anna, an American expat, has chosen this life far from home; but, despite its tranquility and order, inside she is falling apart.

Monday, 16 March 2015

Eleanor & Park - Rainbow Rowell

Title: Eleanor & Park

Author: Rainbow Rowell

Pages: 336

Publisher: Orion

Source: purchased from Exclusive Books

The Synopsis

Eleanor is the new girl in town, and with her chaotic family life, her mismatched clothes and unruly red hair, she couldn't stick out more if she tried.

Park is the boy at the back of the school bus. Black T-shirts,  headphones, head in a book - he thinks he's made himself invisible. But not to Eleanor... never to Eleanor.

Slowly, steadily, through late-night conversations, and an ever-growing stack of mix tapes, Eleanor and Park fall for each other. They fall in love the way you do the first time, when you're young, and when you feel as if you have nothing and everything to lose.

The Review

Once I started reading Eleanor & Park I could not stop. I read it in one sitting. It is such an emotional roller coaster ride. I started my reading off being intrigued, and ended with a broken heart.

This book broke my heart for so many different reasons; all the cruelty experienced by Eleanor, the loss experienced by Park. The abuse experienced by Eleanor and her family is just so incredibly unfair. Abuse is insidious, it sometimes occurs in innocuous actions. It is one of the worst things that can happen. The way that Rowell describes it is perfect, and it just breaks your heart. More books need to be written like this to help readers to identify the seemingly innocuous ways in which abuse occurs.

I love how Eleanor & Parks shows how delicate and perfect first love is, or rather how it should be. I wish I could have a Park in my life. The beauty of the relationship between Eleanor and Park is just so flawless, you want to protect it like you would a flame from the wind. You realise that Eleanor and Park are just what the other needs at that time of their lives. Park becomes the necessary escape that Eleanor needs from home whilst Eleanor gives Park the confidence to be okay with his being different.

My heart breaks for both Eleanor and Park at the end, but more so for Park. I shan't say more as I do not want to ruin it for you if you have not read it yet.

Rainbow Rowell may actually be my new favourite YA author. Her style of writing is just perfect for the story she is telling. Her writing is so good that it is almost hypnotic. Rowell has perfectly described what your first relationship should be like, and it is well just perfect.

There is one word that I have used over and over, which is the only way to describe the way that Rainbow Rowell has written Eleanor & Park as well as the story of Eleanor & Park and that is PERFECT. It is hard to believe that a school district in Minnesota decided to ban this book. This book that is so real and could easily be so true.

If you have not yet read Eleanor & Park please do. This is one of those books that I want to give to everyone I know and say, "Please, you have to read this" because it is one of those books that you need to read in order to see.

UPCOMING SA FICTION: The Dream House - Craig Higginson

A farmhouse is being reproduced a dozen times, with slight variations, throughout a valley. Three small graves have been dug in the front garden, the middle one lying empty. A woman in a wheelchair sorts through boxes while her husband clambers around the old demolished buildings, wondering where the animals have gone. A young woman –called ‘the barren one’ behind her back – dreams of love, while an ageing headmaster contemplates the end of his life. At the entrance to the long dirt driveway, a car appears and pauses – pointed towards the house like a silver bullet, ticking with heat.

So begins The Dream House, Craig Higginson’s riveting and unforgettable novel set in the Midlands of KwaZulu-Natal. Written with dark wit, a stark poetic style and extraordinary tenderness, this is a story about the state of a nation and a deep meditation on memory, ageing, meaning, family, love and loss. The Dream House is written with such a fierce and steady compassion that the reader can only come away from it transformed – ready to take on the challenges of living with a renewed heart and a bigger vision.

The Dream House is an open and frank exploration of human life that resonates beyond race. Looksmart is a welcome new kind of character in the constantly evolving reality of African literature.’ – NADINE GORDIMER

The Dream House is beautifully written. Its politics is understated and its portrayal of South Africa is characterised by a constant movement between affection, anger, nostalgia, resistance and the characters’ acceptance of what is part of the human condition.’ – MARK BEHR

CRAIG HIGGINSON lives in Johannesburg. His previous novels include Last Summer and the award-winning The Landscape Painter (both Picador Africa). His plays include Dream of the Dog,
The Girl in the Yellow Dress, The Jungle Book and Little Foot (all published by Oberon Books, London). His next two plays – The Imagined Land and The Red Door – are scheduled to be published and produced in the next eighteen months.

Terry Pratchett 1948 - 2015

The literary world has been left reeling yet again in 2015, by the loss of one of the most beloved, prolific fantasy authors. It is with immeasurable sadness that we announce that author Sir Terry Pratchett has died at the age of 66.

Larry Finlay, MD at Transworld Publishers: "I was deeply saddened to learn that Sir Terry Pratchett has died. The world has lost one of its brightest, sharpest minds. In over 70 books, Terry enriched the planet like few before him. As all who read him know, Discworld was his vehicle to satirize this world: he did so brilliantly, with great skill, enormous humour and constant invention. Terry faced his Alzheimer's disease (an 'embuggerance', as he called it) publicly and bravely. Over the last few years, it was his writing that sustained him. His legacy will endure for decades to come. My sympathies go out to Terry's wife Lyn, their daughter Rhianna, to his close friend Rob Wilkins, and to all closest to him."

Terry passed away in his home, with his cat sleeping on his bed surrounded by his family on 12th March 2015. Diagnosed with PCA in 2007, he battled the progressive disease with his trademark determination and creativity, and continued to write. He completed his last book, a new Discworld novel, in the summer of 2014, before succumbing to the final stages of the disease.

May Sir Terry live on in the ripples that will continue to be caused through the immortality granted to him by the voracious reading of his books.

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

South Africa Mourns the Loss of a Literary Giant

Penguin Random House South Africa and South Africa at large mourns the loss of André Brink, an author whose momentous presence on the local and international literary stage will be sorely missed.

From Umuzi’s inception, André was intimately involved with the imprint. His novella The Blue Door was commissioned to mark the advent of Umuzi in 2006. It was followed in 2010 by the novel Other Lives. There was great excitement when André signed a two-book contract with the imprint in 2011.
Days before his death, he was working on the first of the two books, a historical novel with the working title Gold Dust. The date of completion had been set for February 2016. The novel will remain unfinished. A second book will, however, be published later in 2015, a collection of letters between André and the poet Ingrid Jonker, with whom he had a relationship in the sixties. Not only did André’s writing leave its mark on Umuzi, but he also promoted the work of younger writers actively.

Steve Connolly, Managing Director of Penguin Random House in South Africa, said: “We are devastated at the loss of one of the country’s great storytellers. André’s voice will remain with us forever, despite his leaving us so sadly.” Our thoughts are with his family and friends during this difficult time.

I can still vividly remember the first time I heard of André P. Brink. It was during one of my Modern Fiction Lectures at my Alma Mater Rhodes University. I remember how Dr Meintjies spoke so reverently of André P. Brink who had been a member of staff in the 1960s and then from 1980 to 1990 and his ability to write his books in both English and Afrikaans simultaneously.

I was quite intrigued, but I am ashamed to say that at the time of writing this post I have yet to read any work by Brink in either English or Afrikaans. I am therefore not able to do my own moving eulogy on him as so many have done since hearing of his passing on Saturday.

I can only say that this loss has spurred me on to read more South African fiction as we have a plethora of amazing local talent which I tend to glance over in favour of international bestsellers.

My Read Local project will be in tribute to South Africa's most prolific writer. Rest in Peace André P. Brink. 

Thursday, 22 January 2015

A Late Start to 2015

Hello everyone, and a belated welcome to 2015!

I am choosing to believe that saying of "Better late than never" so I refuse to feel bad that we are nearly at the end of January and I am only doing my first post now.

I decided to ease in to 2015 and see how I feel before jumping in blindly and setting goals that I won't achieve. So here I am, slightly acclimated to 2015 and looking forward to get back to my usual routine of blogging and going rather crazy about books!

I could do an overview of 2014, but that would simply depress me as I had so much free time that you would think that the total number of books I read would exceed 200, but alas, it has not even exceeded the 50 mark.

Looking ahead though, I have decided to aim modestly for 30 books this year. It is rather low compared to what I am capable of, but this year is year one of my Honours Degree in Development Studies through UNISA, so my reading time shall largely be taken up by academic texts which I am quite sure you would rather not read about. Just in case you are curious though, my electives or rather my focus is on Sustainable Development and Gender and Development.

On a more related note, I have not signed up for any challenges, I do like the idea of 0 by 2016 which aims to have us all reduce our TBR pile to 0 by 2016, but my TBR pile exceeds 500 so that is a tad too ambitious. I do think I should have a goal of reading at least 5 of my Classics Club books as I have neglected the Classics Club for far too long, and my deadline is looming in the not so distant anymore future.

I read quite a few books during the holidays so I shall be posting about them in the next few days and I finished my first book for 2015 today - The End of Your Life Book Club which is an ode to books and the connections they help us to form as well as being an account of the author's mother's battle with pancreatic cancer.

So that is it for now! Just letting you all know that I am alive and will be blogging again as usual in 2015!

Monday, 17 November 2014

Not that Kind of Girl - Lena Dunham

Title: Not that kind of Girl

Author: Lena Dunham

Pages: 227

Publisher: HarperCollins

Source: purchased ebook from Exclusives

The Synopsis

“There is nothing gutsier to me than a person announcing that their story is one that deserves to be told,” writes Lena Dunham, and it certainly takes guts to share the stories that make up her first book, Not that Kind of Girl. These are stories about getting your butt touched by your boss, about friendship and dieting (kind of) and having two existential crises before the age of 20. Stories about travel, both successful and less so, and about having the kind of sex where you feel like keeping your sneakers on in case you have to run away during the act. Stories about proving yourself to a room of 50-year-old men in Hollywood and showing up to “an outlandishly high-fashion event with the crustiest red nose you ever saw.” Fearless, smart, and as heartbreakingly honest as ever, Not that Kind of Girl establishes Lena Dunham as more than a hugely talented director, actress and producer-it announces her as a fresh and vibrant new literary voice. 

The Review

In the words of Hannah Horvath, Lena Dunham is “…the voice of our generation… or at least a voice of a generation”. Hannah Horvath, for those of you don’t know, is a character portrayed by Lena Dunham in Girls, a show written, produced and directed by Lena Dunham. What distinguishes Girls, and Hannah Horvath from other female characters that inhabit the landscape of popular culture is that they do not sugar coat anything. What sets Girls apart is that it is raw, it’s real, it’s a little uncomfortable at times, it can make you cringe, and it is so plausible. There are no perfect relationships between friends, families or dating couples. The dysfunctionality of life is an intangible character. Hannah’s struggles with her mental health and her strange and evolving relationship with Adam are a comfort after years of characters that have it all figured out and are just so cool and perfect.

 If Girls served as affirmation for many of us that it is okay to have weird relationships with your best friends, that it is okay to not be okay with relationships with your boyfriend or girlfriend and that it is not an unusual thing to be stuck about what to do career wise – then Not that kind of Girl is the Hail Mary that we have all been waiting for. Lena Dunham is even more candid in her book than the characters are on her show, with the show giving you a good introduction to who Lena Dunham is. Having said that, if you have watched Girls, you probably have a good idea who Lena Dunham is and how her thought processes work.

Not that Kind of Girl is divided into 5 sections - Love & Sex, Body, Friendship, Work and Big Picture - all of them very enlightening. Reading this has been like a conversation with a really cool counter culture kind of cousin or friend who is so okay with being different from everyone else that she makes you feel okay about being different too. 

I admire Lena for discussing death, such a difficult and sometimes even taboo topic to broach. Death is awkward; it comes suddenly even though we all know it’s inevitable – as she says “when it comes to death, none of us really have the words”. Death turns us all into a distant memory. Lena’s recollection of the death of her grandmother is so touching; one day she was there, the next she was gone, and it was just unfathomable how her life could be packed up so quickly. 

The only thing I wish she would have included in this book was the story behind her tattoos, she mentions it briefly on Girls, but it would have been nice if she had included an essay on that. Lena to me is fascinating. After years of therapy for her various problems, as well as a struggle with self-loathing she has emerged like a butterfly from a cocoon to tell us all that it is okay to be who we are – warts and all. We don’t have to all be swans, it is okay, and rather cool to be eccentric – which Lena defines as being someone “whose passions and predilections are so genuinely out of sync with the world at large that she herself becomes and object of fascination”.

So if you enjoyed Caitlin Moran’s How to be a Woman, and are looking for a book that is less an instruction guide and rather offers you a point of reference to say, ‘Yes! I am different. I can be different and there is nothing wrong with that!’ then Lena Dunham’s Not that Kind of Girl is the book for you!

About Lena Dunham

Lena Dunham is the creator of the critically acclaimed HBO series Girls, for which she also serves as executive producer, writer, and director. She has been nominated for eight Emmy awards and has won two Golden Globes, including Best Actress, for her work on Girls. She was the first woman to win the Directors Guild of America award for directorial achievement in comedy. Dunham has also written two feature-length films (including Tiny Furniture in 2011) and is a frequent contributor to The New Yorker. She lives and works in Brooklyn, New York.

Friday, 5 September 2014

Whilst I wasn't reading

For the longest time I have been struggling to get back to being the prolific reader that I was before I moved to Cape Town. Whilst I have been reading, I have not read as fast or as much as I wanted to be reading. It was rather distressing which slowed down my reading even more.

I still am not where I would like to be with regards to my reading speed, nor have I met the challenges that I have set out for myself, but I decided that to stress about that would simply delay the reading process even further which would start an even more vicious cycle. I decided to stop reading for two weeks. I decided to starve myself of the pleasure of reading so that I could really get sucked in when I did start reading again. So far it has proven effective, and I have decided to tell you about what it was that I was doing whilst I wasn't reading.

Since I was battling to get lost in a story in my head through reading, I decided I would become involved in a story by watching them. There are so many phenomenal series available at the moment. Some of them newish, some of them, finished up either this or last year.

Breaking Bad.

The Americans.

House of Cards.

These are the stories I got lost in.

I watched the American version of House of Cards - Kevin Spacey was phenomenally despicable. I am looking forward to seeing the British version to compare, as the British are just so much more acerbic than the Americans are. It is also quite exciting that House of Cards is based on Michael Dobbs' novel of the same name.

The Americans got me thinking about Russia and Russian Literature, the reference to Anna Karenina and The French Lieutenant's Woman did not escape my notice. The Americans got me wanting to read the Russian Classics. It made me want to read about the Cold War and find out why Russia was seemingly on the wrong side of the war. Interestingly enough, there are also bookish ties to this show - An Ordinary Spy by Joe Weisberg.

Breaking Bad made me think of Voldemort, looking at Walter White and seeing how he turned from good, innocuous Walter White to full on Heisenberg - poisoning children and taking names. We understand through this 5 series journey why it is that Walter White turned bad, but do we actually truly know why Tom Riddle became Voldemort? I am due for a reread of Harry Potter, so perhaps I shall find that we already know, but I think it is splendid when a series makes you think of books.

This is what I was doing when I was not reading, I was getting lost in other story worlds, yet always thinking of books!